Welcome back to the show. I’m your host Miranda Anderson. You’re listening to Episode 133 of the live free creative podcast. This episode is called: Make It Happen.
And you better believe that I have spent the last few minutes jamming out in my office to Mariah Carey’s Make It Happen. Classic nineties.
I tried to figure out how to import the audio so it could play a clip of it for you. And it was a little too complicated. I’m not going to make that happen exactly at this moment, but I do recommend that you head over to YouTube or Spotify or something and just give yourself a little refresher on that fantastic bit of music.
Today, we’re talking about making it happen. Making stuff happen in your life. Those things that you have ideas about or that you want to do. Big and small and seemingly insignificant. And also sometimes life-changing things that you want to make happen.
This is an area that I feel like I’ve had a lot of experience in. I as a personality tend to be a person that likes to make stuff happen. And I get questions quite frequently about how. How do you make stuff happen? How do you bring your ideas to life? How do you find the time? How do you make the time? How do you prioritize?
And so today I want to share my own dissection of the process that I have used to make it happen in my life. I by no means make everything happen that I want to. There’s a lot of things that I leave on the table. There’s a lot of things still in progress. There’s a lot of things that I kind of stall out on and either don’t follow through with or decide that I don’t want to do.
And there are a healthy number of things that I like to dig in and make happen. And I’m going to share how. My simple six step process to making it happen in your life.
Before I get into the episode and those steps, I want to share a little odd job.
Segment: Odd Jobs
My odd job today is my new job.
Friends, I got a job.
I actually dug up a bunch of information and like looked updates of my employment history and put together a resume. I sent a resume along with an application into this job. It was all very official. I actually had the thought, Wow, this is very official, sending an application and a resume. There’s these steps involved that I haven’t had to do for a long time because I’ve been self-employed for so long.
I was thrilled to be offered a position as a COVID vaccination nurse.
I’ll be working in-store, doing vaccination clinics a few days a week in a CVS pharmacy in the Richmond area. And I am thrilled.
For months since the pandemic was in full swing and I heard about all the different opportunities for healthcare workers to be involved, I wondered if there is something that I could do.
I don’t have a whole lot of clinical experience in my back pocket as a hands-on nurse. I worked for many years as an RN, but I did it in an office setting as a diabetes educator. And then later in a home health setting, I did injection trainings for a pharmaceutical company.
So actually working in a hospital is not something that I ever have really wanted to do, or that I felt comfortable with. However, giving vaccinations in a walk-in clinic is something that is well within my wheelhouse of skills and understanding and knowledge.
And there’s also such a huge need right now, trying to roll out this vaccine to administer it to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, so we can resume some sense of normalcy in our lives. So I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
The job itself is exactly what it sounds like. COVID vaccination nurse. I will be in the pharmacy, sitting down with a patient, administering a vaccine. They move on for monitoring for a few minutes, and then the next patient comes in.
Shots in arms all day long, a few days a week. Just moving things along. That’s the hope.
And I know that there are hundreds and probably thousands upon thousands of nurses that are coming out of the woodwork, dusting off their licenses, maybe taking a second job, to aid in this effort to just distribute as many vaccines as possible, as quickly as possible over the next six or so months.
I can say that if a year ago someone had told me, Oh, next year you will buy a pair of scrubs and go into administer shots, I would have thought you were crazy. This was so off my radar that it’s a little bit funny.
I know in years to come, I’ll look back and think of this as such an odd job. It also just feels like the right thing for me right now. I’m super excited about it. I look forward to going into work and putting on those scrubs.
As just a side note. This is so funny, but when I finished nursing school, I told Dave the next day, I really don’t know if I want to be a nurse. I don’t really like clinical nursing and I hate wearing scrubs.
He looked at me like I was crazy.
Why did I do nursing school if I didn’t really want to be a nurse? Well, of course there’s pieces of it that I loved. And the jobs that I had as an RN in the past were perfect for me. I loved the education piece and digging into some more health-related understanding.
And this feels like a really good fit for right now. I’m thrilled to be a part of moving the pandemic along and getting people immunized and restoring our communities to a little bit more safe environment.
And I also really have already relished having some time that I’m not responsible for anyone but myself. It’s been a while since I had that kind of a mental break and it feels really like a good fit.
So I’m thrilled to share about my odd job with you today and that’s kind of it. So let’s jump into the episode.
Main Topic: Make It Happen
Okay. So you have an idea and this idea comes into your head and you think, Gosh, I kind of want to do that. Or I kind of want to make that happen. And then what do you do next? Do you do a little research? Do you write it down? Do you think more about it? Do you tell a friend?
In today’s episode, I want to share with you what I do when I have an idea that I decide I want to make happen.
I want to take it from the idea stage where it exists, sort of, as air in my mind, or colors and shapes and words and sentences and thoughts, all up in my head and how I turn that into something that is real. Something in reality.
I want to start by sharing that not all ideas need to be something you act on.
I think, hopefully, you know this. I noticed though, when I’m talking to my coaching clients–I do one-on-one creative coaching, creative mentorships, with people who have lots of ideas. A lot of my creative coaching clients are idea people. They’re entrepreneurs. They have lots of good ideas.
And one of the challenges is making the decision. Choosing what idea is something that we actually want to move forward with versus what is a great idea that we actually don’t want to move forward on.
Step 1: Make A Choice
So Step 1 for making something happen is to make a choice. Decide what it is that you would like to do.
This doesn’t have to be a big thing. Making something happen can be you notice that a handle on one of your cupboards is loose and you have the idea, the thought, I’d like that handle to be tightened. Again, that may be an idea that crosses your mind that you think about, you notice something, and then the next time you go to open that cabinet, you notice it again. And you think about it again.
At some point, how does that actually turn into making it happen? Tightening that thing. It could be a five second or a five minute project where you go get the screwdriver right then and you tighten it.
But sometimes we don’t, right? Sometimes we have ideas that are small little things like that, that we don’t actually act on.
And sometimes you have a big idea. One of my recent big ideas–maybe it’s not a huge, big idea, but it’s a medium sized, big idea–that I’m going to share today throughout these steps is our family’s Little Free Library.
This is something that I’ve mentioned on the show a little bit. And I’m going to share it a little bit more about it on Instagram in the next few days. But I’ve had this idea for a while that I wanted to have a little free library in my own yard.
So that’s the idea, the thought crosses my head: I would love to have a little free library.
As we’ve gone around the neighborhood. And we’ve picked up books from other little free libraries around and seen how much fun it is. And what kind of a community feeling there is there. The thought crosses my mind, I’d like to have a little free library.
So choosing something as the first step, it doesn’t matter what. It doesn’t have to be big or small. It can be any size and there isn’t a wrong choice or right choice.
It just is what you want.
Now, I’m going to refer you to a couple of the podcast episodes that I have done. Each of these steps probably could have a whole episode dedicated to them.
One of episodes is Episode 44: Become A Great Decision Maker. If you are really stuck on step number one, you may want to listen to that episode.
The other episode about this that I have is Episode 85: Lots Of Right Choices.
There are lots of right choices. Sometimes the problem we have when making decisions is thinking that one is right and one is wrong. Or if we have five decisions or five options, we think one is the perfect choice, like the very best. And then everything else kind of falls in hierarchical order.
But that is often not the case. Sometimes, some scenarios, there is a right and wrong choice, morally or ethically. A lot of times there are right and wrong choices morally or ethically.
But if we’re talking about just options, there can be lots of great options. While the outcomes might be a little different, all of the outcomes may be good.
So don’t get caught up in thinking that you have to make the correct choice about what to make happen.
You can just make a choice that you like. What sounds fun? Ask yourself the question, which option seems the most fun, which option do I not want to do. Sometimes that’s helpful.
So the first step to make something happen is to make a choice. And I promise you that if you don’t make a choice, you will not make something happen. That is essential.
Step 2: Write It Down/Create A Timeline
So the next thing after I make that decision, I often like to write it down and create a timeline for it.
Writing it down helps me get specific about what exactly I want to do. And when I give myself a timeline, it helps me flesh out the boundaries. You could have an idea that you decide you want to do, but if you never give it any sort of boundary, then it might be the dream that you carry with you throughout your whole life, right?
And that’s okay. You can have dreams that you don’t ever actually move forward with, but if you want to make something happen, it is also essential that you create some sort of timeline.
Keep in mind, this is a personal timeline. It’s an arbitrary deadline. Episode 12: Goals v. Self-Imposed Deadlines is all about arbitrary deadlines. This is something that you are giving yourself as a motivating factor, as a logistical factor.
Creating this timeline helps you move forward on the goal. It creates a boundary within which you know how to operate. Otherwise you’re left with just sort of this open-ended idea. I don’t know when that’s going to happen because I don’t really have any sort of idea about when I would like it to happen or what is realistic.
When giving yourself a timeline, I like to try it one. Make a choice. Go back to number one and make a choice about the timeline.
So the idea I’m going to use the example of the Little Free Library. I thought about it for a long time. And then it was an idea for a long time.
It’s not until I actually create a timeline, like move into step two, that it becomes something that I actually think about as on my radar.
I have lots of ideas floating around all the time and some of them I think about and think, yeah, I’m not going to do that yet.
But as soon as I choose it, it’s like I pull it out of the options in my head and I write it down and I say, I’m going to work on this next, in this timeframe. That’s when it starts to move into action.
I like to try on a timeframe, make a decision about a timeframe and try on how it feels.
So with the little free library, I decided that I wanted to move on that project in December, around the holidays. And I set when I was ready to start working on it, I set myself the timeline of having it done by the end of February. Which is right now. And I’m happy to report that because I set myself that timeframe, that deadline, I pushed myself to actually get it done within my timeframe.
Now there was a couple bad weather weeks and I could have adjusted easily and said, Oh, I’m not, I’m going to finish this. You know? The middle of March or March 15th or something, but rather than just taking the deadline off, I like to manipulate it so I can move it up or I can move it back. But until I make the thing happen, I’m not going to remove the deadline completely.
Now I decided to do the Little Free Library in December. That’s when I decided, yes, I am going to do this for sure in the next little while. And I probably thought, maybe I could do it this month and then realize, Oh, we have the holidays. We might be road tripping. It’s going to be really cold. It’s probably going to involve some painting and woodworking and all of that requires a little bit better weather. So it’s not going to work.
So trying it on. Does January feel like the right month? No, probably not. I’m going to need to push it back a little bit. I’ll give myself till the end of February and that felt more realistic.
So just play around with your own timeline until it feels good and like trust your gut on that until it feels good, knowing that you can adjust your timeline as you need.
Step 3: Define The End Product
The order may need to be a little bit reversed for some of you on these, but this is the way that I think about it. I first give myself a timeline and then, Step 3, I consider what I want the end product to be.
In the case of tightening the cupboard handle, I want the cupboard handle to be tight. That’s the end product. So if I go get the screwdriver and I go tighten the handle, then I know I’ve completed it.
The reason that I give myself a visual, written-down idea of what the end result is that I’m looking for is so that I know when I’m done.
Have you ever had a project that you just keep working on and keep working on?
Like maybe it’s decorating a room and it’s just sort of like the never-ending project. You haven’t defined anything about what the finish line is. And so you don’t know when you’ve reached it.
For making stuff happen, I like to know when it has happened, when it is complete. And I will say there are lots of things in our lives, lots of projects and lots of relationships and lots of opportunities, that do not have a finish line. They simply don’t have a result. They are ongoing they’re processes.
I like to acknowledge those things, but if there’s something that I can get done and check it off and be done with it, I want to know that.
I don’t want the Little Free Library to be a project that I work on for six years. I want it to be something that I do and then it’s done and I’m happy that I did it. And then I move on to the next thing.
So Step 3 is to define for yourself what is the end goal or the end result. Determine when will you be satisfied.
And maybe sometimes writing this down will clue you into whether or not you’re being realistic. Maybe if you write down what you think you’ll be satisfied with, you recognize that it is not realistic. It’s not attainable. Maybe you find you’re working more with a process type thing than a finished product type thing.
So just define what the end product is that you’re looking.
Step 4: Break The Result Into Smaller Sections
Then we’ll move into Step 4, which is one of the most important steps. Step 4 is breaking down that end result into sections. A lot of times a project will have natural sections, natural breaking points.
For example, in a recipe, it will have: add all of these things together and mix, and then they’re sort of like a breather. And then next you add all of these things together and mix. And next you combine those two.
Most projects have a natural breaking point.
Let’s go back to tightening that handle. That’s probably like a two step process. That’s something that you could write, maybe even just one item on the to-do list.
Something like build a Little Free Library is one item on the to-do list that can be broken down into probably 30 to 40 steps.
Let me tell you about some of the natural breaking points though, so that you can get an idea of how to do this for your own project.
So for the Little Free Library, one step was to buy a cabinet. I didn’t want to build it completely from scratch. I wanted to build mine using an existing kitchen cabinet with glass front doors. This was the idea that I had.
So I spent some time looking on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to find a used kitchen cabinet with glass front doors that was solid wood that I could use for the base of my Little Free Library.
So find and buy cabinet. That’s like one sort of breaking point. And we did that back in December and then it was just sat in our kitchen for a long time because we had the holidays and we went out of town and stuff. So that’s sort of a breaking point.
The next breaking point that I had for my project was to build a roof type structure. And so I had that next and of course that got broken down into smaller steps, but build the roof was second.
And then sand and paint was next.
And then install into the ground.
So I had kind of these four big categories and each one of those had its own stopping point.
It was harder to stop, for example, when I was in the middle of painting and the cabinet was like all taken apart and all over my kitchen counter and table for painting. So that was like something I wanted to get done in a section. So think about how your project naturally breaks down into steps.
So the timeline for the sections work back from the deadline or the date you’ve given yourself for completion. Be realistic. Again, you know your life, you know what your schedule is like, you know how much energy and time and investment you have to devote to whatever it is that you want to make happen.
So align your steps in your deadline and the breakdown of the project with your own schedule and with your life and what with what’s realistic for you. That’s number four, break it down into sections.
Step 5: Break Sections Into Micro-Steps
Now, number five, you’re going to love this. Number five is break your steps down into micro steps.
Now, one of the main reasons I think that people don’t accomplish the things they want to accomplish, where they don’t actually make happen the things that they in their head like to do, is that they get overwhelmed before they begin.
Or they get started and then get overwhelmed when they’re partway through because it all just feels like a lot. It just feels like a lot. And so then they just stop.
Last month, I was reading a great book by Patrick King called The Science Of Getting Started.
And one of the principles that he shared, this is a book all about how to navigate procrastination or lack of motivation, one of the things that he shared was this idea of make your steps so small, that it’s nearly impossible to not accomplish it.
So if you’re overwhelmed by the next step of whatever your process is, you haven’t broken it down enough. You need to break it down further, break it down further, break it down further, until it’s nearly impossible not to do. It almost feels harder to not do it then to do it.
This is a tool that I use all the time in efficiency and in production, you know, just having a productive life, making sure that I am giving myself the tiniest bites so that I can actually accomplish them.
And Patrick King also suggests something that he calls No Zero Days. The basic rundown of this really fascinating idea is that you think of your days as a binary. A One Day is a day that you do something related to the project and a Zero Day is a day that you don’t do anything related to the project.
Now it does not matter how small the something is that you do. Something is anything related to moving the project forward. And if you operate with the idea of No Zero Days, then that means that every day you’re doing at least a tiny little something to move it forward.
That is a really helpful idea. I used this in the middle process of the Little Free Library. When my days looked like, go to the store and get a size 10 screw. The next day was take the sandpaper out of the drawer in the shed and put it in the kitchen. So then I had the sandpaper in the kitchen. The next day was take the knobs off of the cabinet in preparation for sanding.
It’s the tiniest little things–I could do each one of these tasks in about 60 to 120 seconds. And I was moving the project forward in these teeny increments that all were helping get to the end product, even though it wasn’t like the day that I painted that I actually probably spent three hours on the project that I had set aside and scheduled into my schedule.
Moving the project forward in tiny increments helps you just stay in it and not forget about it and not have it moved to the side or go to the back burner. It helps you be involved enough, hands-on enough, that you are engaged in and interested, and that things are actually happening.
So that’s Step 5, break your sections down into micro-steps.
Step 6: Start Before You’re Ready
So once you’ve got it broken down into the smallest possible steps, Step 6 is to start before you’re ready.
I know I can think of situations in which you don’t want to start before you’re ready. But the purpose of that idea in today’s episode is to remind you of the very important truth that motivation does not come before action. Motivation often comes as a result of action.
As soon as you get the ball rolling, it will continue to roll with so much more ease. Then all of the initial energy that you need to get started, the activation energy, motivation comes through doing. Confidence also comes through doing.
So you’ve chosen something. You’ve given yourself a timeline. You have a clear depiction of the end goal. You’ve broken it down and then broken it down. Now you just need to do those little steps and move.
That movement is what creates the energy that then builds enthusiasm and makes it fun and makes it exciting. There are some projects that you’ll get really excited about as you’re thinking about them, forgetting that almost everything that you want do is going to involve some level of hands-on work or actual physical labor or emotional energy.
Work is work. Even if it’s fun, even if it’s enjoyable, even if it’s something that you really are excited about. You can’t get around actually doing the work. It’s a bonus if you really love the work involved in every part of the process.
But in most projects, there will be pieces that you don’t just love and that you need to do in order to get to that finish line.
I like to think about when I was writing my book More Than Enough. I remember having heard anecdotes from other writers and people writing books about how hard the process is and how really in order to write a book, all you have to do is sit down at the computer and start writing.
Like you need to write the words. That is the way that you get a book is by writing one word and then another word. And then those words form sentences, those sentences form paragraphs, and they form chapters and they form sections. And then you have a book.
We often want everything to be so sexy, so exciting, that we forget about the actual doing things, the actual work, which can be fun. It can be engaging. It can be delightful. And it still is work. It still is effort.
I have a hard time predicting exactly how much effort is involved with the projects that I like to take on. I’m guilty of both sides.
Sometimes I have built something up in my head to be so much work and so hard and so overwhelming. And I follow these steps. And realize that gosh, all I needed to do was get started and it was actually pretty quick and pretty easy.
I’ve also had ideas that I think, Oh gosh, that’s going to be so quick and easy. And I break it down and I start doing the steps and realize it is pretty complicated and actually kind of strenuous and takes a lot more time and involvement and energy than I imagined it would.
Either way, the only way to get to the result is through doing the process. Either way, whether it’s harder or easier than you imagined, you’re not going to know until you are doing.
And some days you might not feel like doing the work. And what keeps you going is really feeling like having the result, knowing that you’re committed to that idea and to the end product and to the timeline and that you’re excited about moving through sort of the grunt to get to the finish line.
And sometimes the finish line isn’t as exciting as knowing that you really love the process and you want the steps.
An example of each of these for me, would be, I would say the Little Free Library was much more of doing the steps. I don’t mind painting and I like sanding and I liked the actual building part of DIY projects.
But I really loved the idea of having the Little Free Library in front of my house, so cute and a community meeting place. And so I did the work in order to get to the result.
Oftentimes with sewing projects, for me, I’m not as interested in the result. I’m excited about it. I’m making myself a dress and I’m going to like the dress.
But mostly what I enjoy is the process of getting to the dress. It would be hard and sort of odd to just sew nothing. So you have to have the result in order to do the process.
And sometimes you have to have the process in order to get to the result.
Either way, they support each other and yor could enjoy it or not. I mean, that’s up to you. Regardless, this is the way that I make things happen.
Recap: Steps to Making It Happen
I’m going to go back through my steps.
And hopefully this episode has given you some ideas of just sort of the basics. It’s not rocket science, but sometimes it’s helpful to hear how other people work through some of their projects.
- Step 1: Choose something. It doesn’t matter what. Choose something that sounds fun, sounds interesting to you.
- Step 2: Give yourself some sort of a realistic timeline to work within that boundary is really helpful.
- Step 3: Start with the end goal or the end product. Be really clear about what that is and work backwards.
- Step 4: Break it down into steps or sections.
- Step 5: Break your sections down into micro steps so tiny that you can’t help but stumble through them and get them done. And I also referenced No Zero Days. Do something every day to move along the process.
- Step 6: Start before you’re ready. Don’t wait for motivation. Don’t wait to be inspired to dig in. Dig in and you will feel inspired.
You all know that I love my Golden Coil Planner that I use for scheduling my life and appointments and dreaming and taking notes and all of the things that I use it for.
I write my to-do list items in my weekly page. I have a to do list for home or household. And I also have a to do list for my work projects.
The micro steps is what I’m writing down on my weekly to do list, and then I’m moving those into the days.
So for example, I might brainstorm my project on a note page and give myself a timeline that I’ll write, like my end result into my calendar: I’m going to have the little free library done by the end of February.
Then in each week of February, I’ll write down those bigger sections that I want to get done and break those down into the micro steps in a to-do list format. And then I’ll move the micro steps into the days so I know what to do which day.
An example is that one week may be my sanding and painting week. So I’ll have sand and paint Little Free Library, and then below it I’m going to have my micro-steps: get sandpaper from the shed, get the sander from the shed, take off the knobs, put blue painter’s tape around all of the windows, remove the cabinet doors.
These are each individual steps that I’m going to write down. It might seem like overkill, but this is how I am able to think about it concretely enough to actually move forward.
If I just have sand and paint Little Free Library, it’s very likely that I could get through the whole week and not actually have done anything related to that because it feels like kind of a big. A little bit of a nebulous idea.
When I break it down into the actual logistical steps that I will need to take in order to make that bigger section happen, I can go get the sandpaper from the shed. I can go get the sander from the shed. I can take the knobs off. These are things that are like, Oh yeah, I’ll do that. It’ll take just a minute or two.
And then on the weekend, maybe on Saturday, I’ve gotten all of my little prep steps ready. And then on Saturday, I’ll set aside two hours to physically sand with the sander. And then wipe it off and then do my painting.
But because I’ve done all of my prep steps before I’m ready to actually move forward in that bigger chunk that needs a little bit more time in a meaningful way, rather than landing on Saturday and thinking, gosh, I have to do everything today and having it take way longer or feel overwhelming. And so then I put it off.
So hopefully that is helpful to give you just an idea of the the logistics of it.
Another thing that I’ve been doing lately, not only writing down in my Golden Coil on the side, but I’ve also been using my phone notes app. And I think because I have been maybe outside on walks when I’m having ideas lately.
And so I’ll write down in my notes app some of the things that I want to do, or project ideas, or even break down ideas and then follow through on it, on my phone, as well as checking it off in my Golden Coil.
And I know for some of you who don’t use a paper planner, you probably have some sort of to-do list app or something that you use actually writing down the micro steps and checking them off or deleting them when I’m done.
Keeps them top of mind for me. It really is helpful for me maybe because I’m getting older and it’s harder to remember everything that I think I want to be doing. It’s really helpful for me to have those written down in a place that I’m looking at them multiple times a day and keeping myself on track.
That’s how I make things happen.
As you listen today, I hope that you have some ideas about the things that you would like to make happen big and small and how breaking them down and giving yourself a timeline, making tiny, tiny micro steps, and then moving forward will help you feel motivated, feel enthused, fantastic, and actually make it happen to get that stuff done.
It’s probably a good time for me to remind you that I’m not all about accomplishment. Although accomplishing things is delightful, it doesn’t mean a whole lot if we aren’t feeling fulfilled in our lives.
And so while it’s really fun to make stuff happen, it also is really fun to align the choices that we’re making with the type of life that we want to live. And not just doing things because we feel like we should, or because someone else told us we should, or because we saw someone else do things.
What do you really want? How do you want to live? How do you want to feel? That’s what I want you to aim for. Those are the types of things that you should make happen in your life. The ones that feel just right for you.
I want to thank you so much for being part of Live Free Creative, for listening to the show.
If you’re new here, I hope that you’ll subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. I have new shows coming out every single week on Thursday at 6:00 AM Eastern.
If you’re an old listener, thank you so much. It means a lot to me that you tune in and listen to my ramblings, my words of advice.
I hope that you’re feeling a little bit more free in your life to live life the way that you would like to live it. If it’s been a while since you wrote a review, or since you shared about the episode on social media, I want to ask you if you would please do one or both of those things. I appreciate them so much. They help the show to reach new listeners and to inspire more people to feel freedom and fulfillment in their everyday lives.
Wishing you a wonderful week. I hope the sun shines down on you and I will chat with you again next week. Bye-bye.